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A. Siebe's Improved Diving - Aparatus

Date: 1848-1849
Overall: 295 x 230 x 35 mm
Sight: 210 x 150 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Lithograph
Object No: 00051845

User Terms

    A framed print depicting a man in an Augustus Siebe's diving suit on the seabed working on the salvage of the ROYAL GEORGE in 1848. Text above the illustration reads 'A. Siebe's Improved Diving-Aparatus'. Text below the illustration reads 'Approved by Major General Pasley and used by all his military divers in the removal of the wreck of the ROYAL GEORGE."
    Diver George Hall is credited with not only leading but also teaching the Royal Navy Engineers and Sappers how to dive during the succesful salvage of the ROYAL GEORGE in 1848. These lithographs were presented to Diver Hall by Augustus Siebe upon the completion of the salvage works.
    SignificanceThe succesful use of the Augustus Siebe Standard Dress Diving Apparatus by Diver George Hall in 1848 signalled the beginning of the golden age of the commercial diver and the opening up of the oceans and inland waterways to all kinds of underwater commercial activities including salvage, engineering, bridge and tunnel construction, ship repair and pearling.
    HistoryThe ROYAL GEORGE, the third British naval vessel to have that name, was laid down as the ROYAL ANN in 1755 but upon being launched in 1856 was renamed ROYAL GEORGE. A wooden, three masted, First Rate Ship of the Line with three decks and 100 guns the ROYAL GEORGE had an active career taking part in a number of sea battles including the Battle of Quiberon Bay on the west coast of France on 20 November 1759 between a British fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Edward Hawke and a French fleet commanded by Admiral the Comte de Conflans which had been blockaded in Brest by the British fleet. In spite of a westerly gale and the shortness of light the battle was a complete victory for the British. Out of twenty-one French ships of the line and four frigates, six were taken, burned or wrecked. The remaining 19 vessels escaped capture but were so badly damaged only a few could be repaired and made fit for service.

    On 29 August 1782 the ROYAL GEORGE was lying at Spithead with almost its entire ship's company and a large number of women and children on board. The vessel was undergoing a 'Parliament Heel', where all the guns are run over to one side of the ship to allow part of the hull below the waterline to be exposed, so that a small leak could be repaired. During the heeling operation it is believed water entered the lower gunports, quickly flooding the lower decks causing the vessel to capsize and sink with the loss of over 900 lives.

    A court-martial was assembled at Portsmouth on 9 September 1872 to try the survivors for negligence. During the course of the court-martial it became apparent that efforts were made on board the ship to counteract the heeling operation but due to the rotten nature of the ship's framing a number of the vessel's frames gave way as the water entered the hull causing the ship to fill rapidly. Several attempts were made to raise the wreck but it was not until 1848 that Sir George Pasley and a group of naval and commercial divers, including George Hall. Hall had collaborated with Augustus Siebe and the Deane Brothers in developing the newly invented Augustus Siebe full dress diving suit. The work resulted in the salvage some of the 100 bronze cannon from the wreck and the remains of the ship were broken up using underwater explosives. Diver George Hall is further credited with teaching the Royal Sappers & Miners and Royal Engineers to dive during the salvage of the ROYAL GEORGE in 1848.

    Augustus Siebe (1788-1872) the inventor of the standard dress diving suit and acknowledged as the 'Father of Diving' (Kemp, 1986) was born in Saxony in 1788 before moving to Berlin where he took up an apprenticeship as a metal caster and watch maker. After serving in and being invalided out of the Prussian Army he migrated to London, in 1814 where he continued his profession as watch maker, metal chaser (engraver of metal) and later a gun maker.

    In 1834 he met Charles Deane who had developed a smoke and fire hood and Siebe combined Deane's hood with an air pump to produce the 'open dress' diving suit. In 1838 Siebe adapted the ideas of Deane's engineer, George Edwards, to enclose the suit to stop it from flooding by clamping the top of the canvas suit to the bottom of the helmet creating the first closed dress or standard dress diving suit. Over the next few years Siebe made a number of significant changes to the suit and helmet introducing inlet and outlet valves, a separate bonnet and breastplate joined by a waterproof thread and regulating valves.

    The standard dress diving equipment became a commercial success and after the successful salvage of the ROYAL GEORGE at Spithead in 1848, the suit was adopted for use by the Royal Navy. Following Augustus Siebe's retirement in 1868 the company was handed over to his son Henry and son-in-law William Augustus Gorman and the company commenced trading as Siebe & Gorman in 1870 and then Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd in 1881.

    With the development of commercial diving in the latter half of the 19th century and the pearl diving industry in the early half of the 20th century the company prospered and, working out of its Neptune Engineering and Instrument Works at Chessington in Surrey, the company went on to produce a wide range of general breathing apparatus, underwater cameras and submarine equipment. The Siebe Gorman Company continued to trade under its own name until 1999 when it merged with another company to form the breathing apparatus manufacturer Invensys.
    Related People
    Printer: W. Kohler

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